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Paul Bernardo to marry again: The cost of low self-esteem in relationships

It is a story that makes the stomach churn of any Canadian over the age of 25. The very names Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka illicit instantaneous grimaces of disgust, regardless of whatever news that follows. Many Canadians believe on this case alone, Canada should uphold the death penalty, and that neither one of those two individuals should be alive today. Why? Because the trail of victims left in the wake of Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka is extensive, and even includes Karla's own sister who is not alive today. Today, Paul Bernardo is serving time in a country that does not carry the death penalty for a significant number of crimes. His ex-wife Karla Homolka has already served her controversial 12 year sentence, and is living "happily" in the Caribbean with her new husband, and their three children. This week, Toronto Sun reporter Sam Pazzano broke the latest news in this grisly case, that Paul Bernardo was set to marry. It is news that no Canadian enjoys talking about, but we still are. Global News reporter Erika Hunter on July 3 has reported that this type of relationship has a name, the "Bonnie and Clyde" syndrome, otherwise known as hybristophilia.

Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka, Ken and Barbie killers and their most famous victims.
Kingston Penitentiary

The Toronto Sun reports that an un-named 30-year-old woman has been writing letters to Paul Bernardo at the Kingston Penitentiary for almost a year. It started off with her sending him a Bible reportedly, and has led to a relationship that she allegedly wants to culminate in marriage. It has horrified everyone in Canada, and also her own family. The biggest question is, why would anyone want to marry him?

Global News is calling it "hybristophilia".

Hybristophilia according to Global News is a syndrome that is rooted in low self-esteem. The Toronto Sun reported this week that a 30-year-old un-named woman and university graduate from London, Ontario has been writing to Paul Bernardo in prison, and that she plans to marry him. It has left many Canadians wondering just how educated she can be. In an interview with the Toronto Sun, she said,

"If I could go back in time and find another person…there are things that should not have happened. When you don't know certain things and you feel a certain way…I'm a little bit confused and conflicted. I didn't….realize the situation."

The "situation"?

Before the names Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French became household names in the GTA, the Golden Horseshoe, and all across Canada and the world, Paul Bernardo and his then wife-Karla Homolka already had a trail of victims in their wake. Before we knew about how Leslie Mahaffy's body was found in Lake Gibson, chopped up and encased in cement, before we knew about Kristen French lying naked and dead and missing body parts at the side of a road near Burlington, Ontario, Karla Homolka's sister was already dead.

Those are just a few elements of the "situation" that is Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka.

The Canadian Crime Library documents the grisly details of the demise of any woman that found themselves in the path of Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka.

Even before Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy became household names in Canada, Canadian women were terrified about what was then referred to as the Scarborough Rapist. No woman wanted to be outside alone. Why?

On May 4, 1987 a 21-year-old suffered a sexual assault that lasted longer than half an hour. 10 days later a 19-year-old experienced a similar assault, but one that was twice as long. It would be almost a month before the next victim attempt would occur, but the Scarborough Rapist gave up when she fought back.

He laid low for a little while. Until September 29, when his next victim was a 15-year-old girl. He got her by breaking into her home, threatening her with a knife, and biting her. Her mother entered the room at that point and screamed, causing him to flee. A man named Anthony Hanemaayer took the hit, and served the time for a crime he did not commit. He would later be exonerated, but not until 2006 when Paul took credit for the crime.

Another 15-year-old would become the next victim on December 16 of the same year. That rape lasted longer than one hour, and it was at this point the Toronto Police began warning women about the Scarborough Rapist. 7 days later another teenager would be attacked. And the attacks continued.

In October of 1987, the Scarborough Rapist met a woman, and began dating her. Her name was Karla Homolka. She knew about everything, and reportedly, even encouraged him. In his book "Invisible Darkness" Stephen Williams wrote about the couple,

"Karla, handcuffed, on her knees and begging for him was scratching an itch. Paul asked her what she would think if he was a rapist. She would think it was cool. Their love deepened. He started raping women in earnest."

In April of 1988, it would be another 17-year-old. May 30, an 18-year-old. October 4, another rape attempt that left the victim requiring 12 stitches, and a scar she likely has to this day. November 16, an 18-year-old in her backyard. The Toronto Police form a task force. Between then and May 26, 1990, 6 more women would fall victim to the Scarborough Rapist.

By then, not knowing any of this, the Homolka family was getting to like the new guy that Karla was bringing around. He was liking them too, especially her younger sister Tammy. The couple and the family got along so well, a 1991 wedding of the century was planned at the Georgian mansion known as the Queen's Landing Inn in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario.

The wedding plans didn't stop the couple from acting out their sordid fantasies together. Reports after the fact, after Tammy's death that is, asserted that the Scarborough Rapist liked her so much he would peek at her through the window while she was sleeping and masturbate to her.

Karla helped him, because she loved him, and began breaking the blinds to her sister's room to make it easier for him. On July 24, 1990, according to testimony provided by Bernardo at his trial Karla stole some Valium from the Martindale Animal Clinic where she worked and laced her 15-year-old sister's dinner with it.

That attack may have been the easiest for Paul, who reportedly made out with his fiancee's sister, while his fiancée watched. Two days before Christmas 1990, Karla planned to give her soon to be husband a special Christmas gift, her sister's virginity. She felt she had to. She had already given away hers to someone else, and this left Paul sorely disappointed.

Karla stole medication from her employer, this time some Halothane, and gagged her own sister with a soaked rag. The couple then got the cameras rolling, back then, video tapes as Tammy's virginity was lost and commemorated on film until the families of their future victims requested those be destroyed.

During the rape, Tammy began to throw up. It got bad enough that 911 was called, but that call did not occur until the St. Catharines area couple did some vacuuming and some laundry to conceal their acts. Tammy Homolka did not make it to Christmas that year, she did not even make it through the night and later died at St. Catharines General Hospital.

Despite the fact that Tammy suffered chemical burns on her face, her death was listed as accidental choking. Later, Paul and Karla would create more "home movies", as Karla put on her sister's clothing and pretended to be Tammy for Paul.

Did the couple then get married and live happily ever after? Of course not.

In June of 1991, the couple kidnapped 14-year-old Leslie Mahaffy just before her fifteenth birthday. For 24 hours, she was raped and abused before she was murdered. After her murder, she was encased in several different blocks of cement, and left in Lake Gibson in Thorold, Ontario.

In April of 1992, the couple saw a 15-year-old girl walking home from school and stopped her to "ask for directions". While Karla talked to Kristen French, her soon to be husband dragged her into the car. Kristen was held in custody by the couple for 3 days and subjected to gruesome acts, before she too was murdered.

Her body was dumped only 1 kilometre from the gravesite of Leslie Mahaffy.

There is no "allegedly" or "reportedly" when it comes to connecting this couple to scores and possibly hundreds of gruesome and horrific crimes. They both have been convicted, and Karla has done her time in one of the most controversial sentences Canadians have seen to date.

In order to mitigate her own sentence, her lawyer secured a plea deal of 12 years, granting her immunity from many of the charges, in exchange for testimony against her then husband Paul Bernardo. After she was released from prison, Karla married the brother of that same lawyer, and is now living in the Caribbean with him and their 3 children.

And Paul Bernardo?

As Christie Blatchford for the National Post writes, "The chances of him ever getting out of prison — he’s theoretically eligible for day parole next year and full parole in 2018 — are pretty slim."

To many Canadians, that isn't enough. To the 30-year-old woman that wants to marry him? Possibly hope, at the end of what appears to be a very dark tunnel for her. Until then, she has allegedly secured wedding bands, and sports a tattoo that reads, "Paul's girl". Christie Blatchford also writes that she has remained un-named is likely "merciful" and is probably "out of deference to her alleged mental fragility."

Karla Homolka has already experienced the cost of low self-esteem in a relationship. Many Canadians think she got off easy, but has she? She can't walk the streets of Canada without being harassed, which is why she is forced to live in exile with her second husband.

What is to become of "Paul's girl"? Global News has connected "Paul's girl" with a condition known as hybristophilia, rooted in low self esteem. According to Sam Pazzano, the Toronto Sun reporter who broke the story, "Paul's girl" has had a history of abusive relationships.

"Paul's girl" has even reportedly made comments about the past of the Scarborough Rapist, alleging that he was "merely a bystander" in the crimes he has been convicted of.

"She's very fragile – psychologically – and that was why Bernardo was able to prey on her," says Pazzano of the Toronto Sun.

The cost of low self-esteem in relationships is very high. Sheila Isenberg who has interviewed multiple women who have relationships with men behind bars and has authored "Women Who Love Men Who Kill" says the profile of women that love these men is often a history of abusive boyfriends and experiences, leaving the women with "wounded personalities" according to Global News.

“Because of that, when they get involved with a man behind bars… they have the upper hand. He can’t hurt them. He’s not going to hit them, he’s not going to psychologically abuse them."

Many relationship experts will always say that your self-esteem is the greatest thing you can do for yourself before entering a relationship. It's not just talk. Failing to do so can lead to a disastrous and horrific relationship history, and maybe even one like Karla Homolka's, or "Paul's Girl."

What relationship advice would you give to Paul's Girl?

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